Flithy Asians

One of my colleagues recently passed on his copy of The Far East by James H. Maurer Sentinel Printing, 1912.

The author says that the book is not the product of extensive research, and that is is mostly a compilation from other sources. At the time it was written Maurer, formerly a member of the Knights of Labor was a Socialist member of the Pennsylvania Legislature. In 1912 he became  President of the Pennsylvania Federation of Labor and in 1928 Socialist candidate for Vice President of the U.S.

The book itself is fascinating, as its main purpose seems to be creating a left-wing understanding of East Asia (mostly China). Thus there is a lot about opium and foreign capital’s attempts to exploit the Chinese, making the book radically more pro-asian than anything that would be published in the West for a long time. You also get a lot of zombie errors and  standard orientalism. Thus it is worth reading if you are interesting in attempts to create a left-wing understanding of the world or if you are interested in understanding foreign images of Asia from outside the standard elite sources.

One of the thing that jumped out at me was a quote from William Bancker of Springfield Mass., writing to the head of the Cigar Makers’ Union. Mr. Bancker is worried about the competition to American labor from cheap Asian cigars, and thus, in a very modern way, sees himself as in competition with Asian labor rather than in sympathy with it. Apparently the elite/labor split over relations with the non-white world goes back aways.

“I served two years in the Philippines in the army, mostly around Manila, and out of curiosity I visited a number of shops there. Now every solider knows the uncleanliness of the average Filippino, and if you ask him he will tell you that many a poor fellow came home in a box by too close association with them as they are poison to the white man. They are affected with a skin disease, and a large majority of them are covered with open sores or scars. Leprosy, beri-beri, cholera, beubonic plague and other infectious diseases, are, as everyone knows, prevalent there. They sit half naked and work and scratch, while the air is rank with the smell of decayed fish and rank cocoanut oil which the women use on their hair.  Now, imagine one of these natives, whose teeth have rotted black by the constant chewing of the betel-nut, biting out heads, which I took particular notice to see if they did, and using their spittle to help past the heads on their work, and you can form some idea of what the American smoker will get when the trust dumps these far-famed Manila cigars on the market. The United States government spends thousands of dollars to quarantine against these Asiatic diseases and when one leaves the island for this country, himself and all his effects are thoroughtly disinfected, and in the face of all this our law makers propose to put their seal of approval on this bill which will put in the mouths of thousands of citizens, a most prolific contagion, and if as I fimrly believe, it will be the means of infecting those filthy Asiatic diseases into the blood of the American people the present administration can thank itself for that. “

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